Anniversary of daughter’s passing triggers outpouring

Jeff Jones’ voice breaks when he talks about his daughter, suffering from cystic fibrosis, lying in a hospital bed, but still managing that smile everybody loved.

“I don’t care how sick she was. She never complained. She always said she was fine,” her father said, two days before the double dates that break his heart all over again every year – May 30, her birthday, and May 31, the day she died.

It’s been five years since he, his wife, Lisa, and their son, Jeffrey, said goodbye to their 26-year-old daughter and sister. This time, as the dates rolled around, Jones decided to follow Heather’s example of being goodhearted and ask the public to join him.

He posted the Random Acts of Kindness in Memory of Our Daughter page on Facebook and created an event, asking everybody who was willing to do something nice for someone on either or both days, Monday and Tuesday this week.

“This is the first time in the five years since she died that I’ve actually had a little bit of joy. If Heather knew about this, she’d be smiling from ear to ear,” her father said.

Jones has always found it painful that his child’s birthday and death were only one day apart.

“I thought doing something like this would help the emotional roller coaster of those two days and give a little more joy to Lisa and me,” he said.

Maybe, he thought, 50 people would respond, although he hoped for 100.

But to the delight of his family, the post was seen by hundreds, from all over the country, even the United Kingdom, and responses climbed to more than 1,140, with scores of comments.

“This is the amazing thing I’ve seen in a long time,” one man wrote.

A woman posted that, although early, she and her husband practiced kindness by adopting a dog   that friends couldn’t keep any longer.

There are promises to give mothers breaks from their children, offer large tips to waitresses, surprise strangers with gift cards and donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“The act of kindness can happen any time during the day, on either day or both days. You might want to buy somebody a cup of coffee or cut the neighbor’s grass. Just something nice. That’s all I’m asking for,”Jones said.

Brown-eyed Heather Marie Jones was born with cystic fibrosis and hospitalized at various times throughout her life.

“She knew the hospital like the back of her hand,” he father said, remembering that, soon after she was born she underwent surgery for an intestinal blockage and was later diagnosed with the disease, a lung and digestive disorder.

“It causes bad damage to the lungs. There is no cure. She was in the hospital almost the last three months of her life. It was off and on; it wasn’t the whole three months, but the majority,” her father said.

“She was getting flare ups where she would get infections in her lungs and go in for what they called a tune up, in the hospital. Regular antibiotics were not strong enough so they gave her antibiotics through an IV,” he explained.

“My sister-in-law was spending the night with Heather there. She took a turn for the worst. My wife and I went up there and we were there with her the next 10 days,” he said.

That Memorial Day weekend, Heather was admitted to the intensive care unit and placed on a respirator because her lungs failed.

Doctors told the family she was on the list for a lung transplant, a list she had been on when she was younger, but removed from. Sadly, she didn’t live long enough.

“Heather loved life. She just loved life. She touched so many people. She was very giving person.

“She enjoyed life. She was always happy. Christmas was her favorite holiday. She loved to get people stuff. She didn’t have a lot of money but she loved to make sure everybody had something. She loved family time.

“I remember when my aunt passed and she made a pan of lasagna for my uncle. That’s just how she was,” her father recalled.

“Now, we want people to do like Heather did.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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